As I sat down Barry Huang asked how much of the banter from last night's quarter-finals made it into the feature match that was published. My answer was quick. “I'd say about 75% of what Christian said could not be published” Barry laughed and agreed. Ricky Zou who was watching the match after winning his quarter-finals also laughed and agreed. “No surprises there!”
The two were good-natured fast players and they were getting ready for the all-too-familiar Caw-Blade mirror match. While the match may make some players groan it was actually a fairly interesting and complicated matchup where one little slip-up could easily send a player packing out of this semi-finals match.
Barry stared at his hand for a good moment without flinching and then put it on top of his deck for a mulligan. Barry meanwhile was much more relaxed keeping his initial hand. Barry's hand of six cards was acceptable. He led with a Plains while Ricky opened up with Preordain off of a Seachrome Coast.
Neither player had any action on turn 2 but a Squadron Hawk from Barry on turn 3 met Mana Leak. Barry fought back with Spell Pierce forcing his hawk into play so he could dig the remaining fliers out of his library.
Ricky capitalized on Barry being tapped out with a Squadron Hawk of his own finding two of the three hawks in his deck. The two hawks traded and Barry had no other plays on turn 4 other than a tapped Celestial Colonade. Ricky who was sitting on a Jace The Mind Sculptor and a Gideon Jura chose to run out one of his Squadron Hawks to get the fourth out of his library instead. He was unwilling to risk Jace to a counterspell and he also wanted to represent the mana for a Mana Leak as well.
But Barry removed that Mana Leak threat with a Tectonic Edge at the end of Ricky's turn. He kept up with on-board presence with Squadron Hawk #2 and then passed with two lands open: an Island and a Tectonic Edge. Sylvok Lifestaff came down for Barry but he held his Hawk back on defense and kept his mana up. Barry fired back with a Mortarpod which would help shoot down one Ricky's hawks.
The Germ token that came in equipped to Mortarpod shot down Ricky's flier when he went to the attack step. Ricky traded bird for bird on the next turn as both players blew through their angry birds in no time flat. A Tectonic Edge activation from Ricky at the end of Barry's turn targeted Barry's own copy of the land which Barry did not use in response in order to keep mana open for Mana Leak.
Jace the Mind Sculptor was finally attempted by Ricky a turn later and it ran straight into the Mana Leak which Barry kept open. At this point it felt like the players were on auto-pilot. They knew what they wanted to do with their cards and it was only a matter of getting through all of their answers in order for one of their big threats to stick.
Stoneforge Mystic came down for Ricky fetching up a Sword of Feast and Famine. This promptly a Tumble Magnet from Barry who did not use it when Stoneforge Mystic came into the red zone with only a Sylvok Lifestaff on the next turn. Ricky chose not to play the Sword of Feast and Famine instead electing to cast Gideon Jura which Barry took care of with his own copy of the Planeswalker on his next turn.
But Ricky feigned weakness with cards in hand when he activated his Celestial Colonade in the face of a Tumble Magnet. Barry tapped down the man-land and then untapped to cast Baneslayer Angel. Ricky dropped the Sword of Feast and Famine into play at the end of Ricky's turn and then untapped to Day of Judgment his Stoneforge Mystic and the Baneslayer Angel away. He tapped down to 2 lands in order to play Stoneforge Mystic but lost it to Mana Leak from Barry.
Barry content to see his opponent at 1 card in hand took the time to drop Gideon Jura and his final Squadron Hawk into play. With Barry possessing a board full of active threats and a Tumble Magnet Ricky had his back against the wall. Celestial Colonade woke up on Ricky's side to drop Gideon to 4 loyalty and a Stoneforge Mystic looked to hold some of those equipments Ricky had in play. Barry untapped into Preordain finding his first Stoneforge Mystic of the match which found Sword of Feast and Famine. He equipped the mystic with Mortarpod used Gideon's +2 ability and passed back.
When Stoneforge Mystic on Ricky's side picked up the Sword of Feast and Famine Barry elected to tap it down with Tumble Magnet at the start of the combat phase. Ricky responded by activating his Celestial Colonade which attacked and ate a Squadron Hawk that jumped in front of Gideon. Barry assassinated the Stoneforge Mystic on Ricky's side and then he cast and equipped his own Sword of Feast and Famine to Stoneforge Mystic dealing first damage to Ricky. It dropped him down to a “low” 30 life thanks to all of the Sylvok Lifestaff action going on but robbed him of the last card in hand.
Barry untapped his lands and passed with lots of mana open two Celestial Colonades ready for the defense and one card in hand. Ricky was more than happy to let Ricky wake up his own man-land for an attack and quickly woke up his own man-land to block and trade.
The Stoneforge Mystic and Gideon both got their beats on Ricky dropping him to 21. Rick top-decked a Preordain digging for anything that would help him get out of this game. A Tectonic Edge was a start forcing the last counter off of Tumble Magnet in order to keep his Gideon alive. Barry woke up Celestial Colonade to force the Tectonic Edge activation hit with his Stoneforge Mystic for 3 and then untapped the lands he used on his man-land for the turn. Gideon used its +2 ability as a defense measure against Celestial Colonade and a second Tumble Magnet looked to spell trouble for Ricky's comeback.
At 18 life Ricky was on a two turn clock against Barry's Gideon and Stoneforge Mystic. Attacks on the next turn dropped him to 9. On Ricky's next turn he was picking up his cards for the second game.
Barry – 1 Ricky – 0
Both players sideboarded in complete silence which was broken only by Barry's sigh of relief for being up a game and his question of whether Ricky would be playing or drawing.
Ricky naturally chose to go first keeping his opening hand. Barry once again threw back his starting hand. As he shuffled up they reflected on the previous game. “I probably should have waited on that Jace last game” Ricky said thinking that the early Jace was definitely a mistake as Barry clearly represented Mana Leak when he didn't use his Tectonic Edge in response to Ricky's own copy of the Worldwake land in response.
While Barry led off action on the draw with a Preordain Ricky's first play was a turn two Squadron Hawk finding the other three birds out of his library. A second Preordain came down for Barry which bottomed one card and put the other into his hand. His second land was a Celestial Colonade which Ricky mirrored on turn three. His hopes that Ricky would get stuck on land was denied on turn four when he played a Tectonic Edge. Stoneforge Mystic on turn 4 went unanswered by Barry as the Worldwake rare tutored up the expected Sword of Feast and Famine.
Barry played his fourth land and then passed with all four mana open. The sword came down via Stoneforge Mystic's activated effect on Ricky's next turn but it was met with Divine Offering once the Squadron Hawk it was equipped to swung in. It was also the first turn in which Ricky did not have a land drop. Barry continued to play lands while Ricky was stuck on four in play. Gideon Jura came down on barry's sixth turn (with Barry's Spell Pierce negating Ricky's Spell Pierce) and it immediately assassinated Stoneforge Mystic. When Ricky did not have a way to immediately answer Gideon on his turn things started to look really good for Barry.
Barry used the +2 effect on his Gideon and then a Tectonic Edge activation got rid of Ricky's Celestial Colonade which Ricky replaced with a freshly drawn Tectonic Edge on his next turn. Barry continued to represent countermagic each turn using Gideon's +2 effects and a Celestial Colonade activation during Ricky's attack step prompted a Tumble Magnet activation to keep one of his hawks alive. He dropped another Tumble Magnet into play along with a Celestial Colonade.
Hawk #3 came down on Ricky's next turn which prompted the Day of Judgment from Barry to sweep away Ricky's fliers. Ricky sitting on a Sun Titan was just happy that he got to untap with 6 lands finally. He elected to animate his Celestial Colonade to finish off Gideon instead of risking the powerful 6-drop to countermagic and then passed back to Barry.
Barry had little action on his next turn dropping a Sword of Body and Mind onto the battlefield without any creature to pick it up. It still ate a Divine Offering during Ricky's next main phase but Ricky's Jace The Mind Sculptor did not land thanks to Barry's Mana Leak. “One time Jace me!” Barry asked looking for his own copy of the Planeswalker to improve his fairly reactive hand. He did not find one instead just playing a land and passing. He did however have a second Mana Leak when Ricky attempted to pull the trigger on his Sun Titan.
Barry finally found some form of threat with Squadron Hawk which immediately pulled out the remaining three from his library. He passed back to Ricky with 6 lands open still representing plenty of countermagic. While Ricky was unable to resolve any of his great spells he still had plenty of defense out there with multiple copies of Tectonic Edge and two active Tumble Magnets.
A Jace The Mind Sculptor tapped Ricky out when he paid for Barry's third Mana Leak. The blue Planeswalker immediately Brainstormed and the Tumble Magnets looks to muck up Barry's hope of removing it. One peck from a Squadron hawk brought Jace to 2 loyalty and Barry passed back after dropping a second hawk into play. Jace continuted to Brainstorm up cards for Ricky who was slowly rebuilding his hand. He shuffled the top 2 cards of his deck back thanks to a Stoneforge Mystic which tutored up Sword of Body and Mind. The 2-cost creature was accompanied by one of Ricky's Squadron Hawks before he passed back action to Barry.
A Tumble Magnet tapped down one of Barry's hawks in order to keep his Jace alive and then Day of Judgment from Barry cleared the field. Barry emptied the remaining cards out of his hand with his final two Squadron Hawks and then he lost both of his Celestial Colonades to Ricky's Tectonic Edges at the end of the turn. Barry untapped Brainstormed with Jace and then cleaned up the remaining hawks with a Day of Judgment of his own. With so many Tumble Magnets available and an active Jace Ricky quickly changed roles from being the underdog of the match to the dominant force.
A third Tectonic Edge from Ricky took out Barry's third Colonade when it woke up on Barry's next turn. Once the coast was clear Ricky began to fateseal Barry. The first card he saw was immediately left on top which signaled that Ricky could tap out by playing Preordains and Sword of Body and Mind. Barry untapped drew and played his Tumble Magnet into Ricky's Volition Reins. Jace continued to fateseal and a turn later he was attacking with Celestial Colonade too.
A top-decked Gideon Jura earned another Voltion Reins from Ricky who had the game fairly locked up. Threatening lethal with his man-lands wolf and stolen Gideon as well as a clock with Jace The Mind Sculptor's ultimate effect Barry was picking up his cards and shuffling up for game 3 in a matter of turns.
Barry – 1 Ricky – 1
“Good luck...” Barry told his opponent. “But I probably shouldn't say that. I mean nobody means it when they say that at this point right?” Ricky sheepishly smiled. “Yeah I know you don't mean that.”
Both immediately kicked off the game with fast action. Barry led off with Stoneforge Mystic finding Sword of Feast and Famine while Ricky had no action on his second turn. He had no plays on turn 3 as well until Stoneforge Mystic put the sword into play at the end of Barry's turn which prompted a Divine Offering. “Does he have it?” Barry asked as he tapped out for Jace the Mind Sculptor on turn 4. “Yes he does” Ricky responded in the third-person putting his Spell Pierce into the graveyard once he tapped his mana for the cheap counterspell.
“Does he have the Force of Will?” Ricky jokingly asked as he resolved his Jace The Mind Sculptor. He Brainstormed then passed back to Barry to quickly put Gideon Jura into play. Jace continued to Brainstorm on Ricky's next turn who had no action and then lost his blue Planeswalker to Barry's white one on Barry's next turn. Barry then followed up with Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Body and Mind.
Ricky played a new Jace the Mind Sculptor on the next turn passing with 2 open. One of the Stoneforge Mystics on Barry's side put Sword of Body and Mind into play while the other mystic picked it up for an attack. Gideon got into the red zone for the turn taking out Jace while the Stoneforge Mystic smacked Ricky for 3 milling 10 cards and making a wolf for Barry who passed action back to Ricky with 2 open (including a Tectonic Edge).
Ricky had enough of Gideon playing his own copy of the Planeswalker as an answer to Barry's but the Stoneforge Mystic with Sword of Body and Mind went unanswered on Barr's next turn. Attacks from Barry's creatures put Ricky to 13. Ricky immediately untapped to Day of Judgment the board away and then when Barry's only play on his next turn was Tumble Magnet Ricky used Divine Offering at the end of turn to clear away Sword of Body and Mind.
With Barry lacking any countermagic Ricky started casting his spells unimpeded. Jace The Mind Sculptor #3 came down for Ricky for some Brainstorming action and Stoneforge Mystic shuffled up his deck and found a Sword of Body and Mind.
When Barry used Tectonic Edge on Barry's only untapped blue source during his own main phase Ricky floated blue. When Barry announced main phase 2 Ricky used his colorless Tectonic Edge Mana to fuel his other untapped Tectonic Edge on Barry's Celestial Colonade knocking him down to 4 lands and stranding the Gideon Jura he wanted to play during post combat main phase in his hand. He was clearly unhappy with himself for the play.
Ricky went on fatesealing duty during Ricky's next turn while Gideon Jura and Sword of Body and Mind came down on Ricky's next turn. Mana Leak promptly stopped Barry's Gideon from coming down and attacks from Ricky's Gideon and equipped Stoneforge Mystic put the pressure on Barry. While Barry had Tumble Magnet to lock down Gideon he took the attack from the equipped Stoneforge Mystic.
While Barry had a Day of Judgment for Ricky's mystic and wolf token the next turn he was clearly frustrated at himself for his earlier misplay against Ricky's Tectonic Edge. While he had a second Tumble Magnet to keep Ricky's creatures locked down Jace was getting dangerously high on loyalty. Another fateseal from Ricky put Jace up to 11 loyalty and Squadron Hawks continued to build up Ricky's already threatening board. Jace went up to 13 loyalty and when Ricky allowed him to keep the card it was clear Barry would have no answer to Jace's ultimate on the next turn. He offered the handshake on his next turn.
Barry – 1 Ricky - 2